Meeting Expectations With Less Writing, More Chillin'

26 October 2015 | 3:14 pm | Kate Kingsmill

Chillin' with Beastie Boys, Chili Peppers and Rick Rubin, in fact

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Jake Bugg has played the Royal Albert Hall, released a debut album that went straight to number one in the UK charts, was signed to Mercury Records and played Glastonbury the year he turned 17. He's been nominated for the Brit Awards, and has worked with Rick Rubin, Mike D and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. All this, and he's only 21 years old.

But ask Bugg what he's most proud of in his short but sparkling career and he can't think of a thing. "Um... I don't know. I'm probably the harshest critic of myself so I don't allow myself time to think of what I've done and to ponder over the things that people probably think I would. I just kind of get on with it really. Hmm..." He continues, "I don't know what the proudest thing is that I've done… I guess having a number one album with the first album, that's pretty sweet. I want to get another one, so now the expectation is also there, which is even harder to follow up."

"I got to hear some old Beastie Boys mixtapes that I don't think had been heard before, so that was crazy."

Like a young Donovan fuelled by weed and White Lightning (cheap UK cider), Bugg writes like an old soul. And he says he only writes when he feels like it. "I don't do it if I don't feel like doing it. Like, if somebody says it would be nice to get a song written, if I don't feel like doing it I wont do it because it's never going to be good. I'll only do it if I feel like playing it. And you know, sometimes you get a song, sometimes you won't. I don't ever try and force it." Lately, he's been working on his third album with Mike D of the Beastie Boys. "Yeah, I mean, it was kind of more hanging, because nothing came of it, like, musically, that's going to be on this album," clarifies Bugg, "but it's still the experience and the opportunity to work with him and just hang out. Which was a big inspiration that fell upon me from him so that was an amazing experience. And I got to hear some old Beastie Boys mixtapes that I don't think had been heard before, so that was crazy."

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The day The Music spoke to Bugg, it had just been announced that Mercury Records had rejected his studio recordings in favour of the demos. "Yeah," Bugg confirms, "I mean, I'm not going to use the demos, I've recorded everything properly. It's just they liked the ideas that I was doing and stuff." He says he's written more grooves this time, "There are some songs on it that you could maybe dance to, where feel like the other two records didn't have so much."

The challenge, he says, is balancing the sense of expectation with keeping it interesting. "The first record went to #1 but because it was my first record, no one knew Jake Bugg or no one knew what his sound was, until that came out, and I think that should be the case with every record. I didn't want to scare everyone away but I don't want people to think, 'Oh, it's just the same as the last record.' This record has a little element of the first record but it feels totally new and different. I think."